The eternal 35-vs-50 war

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
So I have finally come to an understanding about my relationship to 35mm vs 50mm focal lengths or their equivalents.

35 mm is a focal length of action. Deeper DOF and the angle of view help capture fleeting moments. Compositions are tough to nail to perfection because there's so much included in the frame. But if you're out there to capture situations and expressions, perfect composition is not as important. In this regard, 28 mm is also a strong action FL.

From 50 mm upwards the narrower view helps to make tight compositions, making them a great candidate for art.

50 mm sits at a crossroads being a good FL for art but also allowing for some action.

Most people I guess would think of a 70-200 mm lens, or a 300 mm, when I say "a lens for action". I let people interpret this as they want. Even more so for the definition of a "lens for art". :)

As such, in my bag there's room for both of these focal lengths.

So what about you? Any new (or rehashed) takes on the age-old comparing these two common FLs?
 
Easy. 40mm. Doesn't have the slightly exaggerated perspective of the 35 while not being as tight as the 50mm. I have 35, 40 and 50mm lenses and when I carry a 40mm, I don't need 35 or 50.

Personal thing of course, but I never feel completely at ease with 35mm, even though I really like the Zeiss Loxia 2/35. And the 50mm often feels too tight, can't get enough in, although I get used to it when I work with it for a while.

Can't find his name in a quick search, I remember that a Cosina executive was a fan of 40mm lenses and that he was responsible for introducing them into the Voigtländer line-up. I'm immensely greatful for that, I never thought we would get 3 native options for Sony FF for instance.

Don't want to derail the thread, please go back to debating 35 vs. 50mm! :D
 

Richard

All-Pro
Location
Marlow, UK
40mm is a great focal length (it's where I came in - my first camera was an Olympus Trip 35) but I think I would opt for 35mm now as a fixed lens. You can always crop a bit off a 35mm image if it's too wide, but you can't add a bit more to a 40mm image if it's not wide enough.

-R
 

rayvonn

Hall of Famer
For rangefinder purposes, I've learned that 28mm and 50mm is the way to go for a 2 lens combination. Trouble is, I have a 35mm. It's great to the point I will never get rid of it and keep using it, so one is always a bit hesitant to go for a 28 or 50 as a 35 sort of covers both scenarios. That could be a good thing of course, but you obviously dont get the best of what the 28/50 focal lengths have to offer.
 
Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
A couple of months ago, I'd've said: 35mm all the way - just learn to take a step closer or one back according to the situation. But at the moment, I'm enjoying some of my 50mm lenses very much ... The 50mm is probably more of a people lens than 35mm, but action ... well, probably less so; I'd use a (medium or short) tele for that.

To be honest, 35mm and 50mm aren't really competing in my book - because they favour a different approach to photography; the 50mm FoV allows for more intimate shots (I'm not talking about portraits exclusively here), the 35mm is a more versatile proposition; both focal lengths offer loads of opportunities.

The 40mm and 45mm FoV click with me as well - I frankly love all the lenses in that range I have access to (my favourite lens in AF land at the moment is the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 C - in spite of the Nikon Z 35mm f/1.8 S and its extremely impressive Z 50mm f/1.8 S sibling ...).

If I had to choose, I'd go for 35mm as my mainstay - but only because I could do with a 35mm what I could do with a 50mm in a pinch (through cropping, if push came to shove). And I personally tend to "see" in 35mm ... That's why I don't run any system without that option available to me as a prime (the exception being :mu43: - because I find the Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 clearly superior to the Olympus 17mm f/1.8, so I sold the latter).

And the only lens for M mount that really gives me GAS attacks at the moment is the upcoming Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f/1.2 III ...

M.
 

Bart J D

Top Veteran
I don't like to change lenses in the field.
35 is an answer to that for me when I don't know what to expect. When I know there will be architecture or wide landscapes, 28mm.
Another 'general purpose' focal length is the 43mm, Pentax 43mm f/1.9 L39 (special) or on Nikon, the 45mm f2/8 Ai-P.

When I go out in my own area, I tend to pick one of my lenses and look for fitting subject.
Quite a few of those are 50/58mm.
Normally I'll add a few complementing focal lengths - just in case. But I rarely change.
I like the "exercise" of looking at things in a set field of view.
 

Luke

Legend
Location
Milwaukee, WI USA
Real Name
Luke
I feel like I see life in a 35mm view. It just seems "normal" to me. If I am walking around and "see" a shot in my mind, when I raise the camera to my face, that is the frame I get with a 35mm lens.

I like the creativity and shallower dof provided by a 50mm...and because of that, I often have more fun shooting with one. But the 35mm is what I would use if I could only have one.
 

Richard

All-Pro
Location
Marlow, UK
I probably "see" in 35mm too (or maybe 40mm) but I wonder if that's a reason to avoid those focal lengths, in terms of producing pictures that are surprising and interesting to the photographer?

Just a thought.

-R
 

mnhoj

gee aahrr
Location
Los Angeles
Real Name
John
I'm more of a 28mm and 50mm. I think for the dime a dozen availability in most systems.

A 35mm has been elusive so I guess that's why I've never caught on to it.
Even with the X100s. Always felt like I needed the WCL/TCL on them.

Right now I have an odd 30mm and 60mm(MFT). I'm really looking forward to using the awkward 60mm more. So far, I'm really liking it for people shots.
 
Well, if it was a war my 50s outnumber the 35s some 15 to 1. I only have five 35mm lenses in Leica mount.

I just know when I'm in the mood for one over the other, Peaceful co-existence. I only have one 28 in Leica mount- a Nikkor 2.8cm F3.5. It's tiny. I had an Elmarit-M 28/2.8, but sold it- very sharp, but a retro-focus design. Figure to use the Nikkor 28/2 on the Df instead, or the 20mm F2.8 AF-D.

In F-Mount, my favorite 35 is the Nikkor-O 35mm F2, factory AI converted. Second version of the lens. I find the grid lines of an E-screen and the Df very helpful for framing when using a wide-angle lens.
 
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agentlossing

All-Pro
Location
S. Oregon Coast (the Northernmost-Cal of them All)
Real Name
Andrew Lossing
35mm is actually a really good lens for landscapes and well. It doesn't "push things out" as much as 28mm but is still wide enough to get most of a landscape scene. For action I prefer either 28mm or 40mm. 28mm pulls things in and makes what's in front of the camera bigger than the background - plus it can get complex scenes with lots of actors, like what Winogrand captured so well. But in today's streets so full of cars and commercialism, I prefer a tighter view, and 40mm offers more flexibility than 50mm while keeping lines straighter and an overall more artistic rendition than 35mm.

These are my feelings right now, but over time they've been known to change!
 

Jonathan F/2

Top Veteran
Location
Los Angeles, USA
I'm more a 28/50 shooter when it comes to portraits, but now I've switched to the 35/85 combo. My street combo is the 18/45 combo. 35 is actually my least favorite FL, mainly due to not being wide enough, having ugly foreground/background separation compared to a 50/85 and too much distortion when shooting in portrait mode requiring a shift in angle orientation. I still keep it though because a fast 35 shines when in tighter spaces, something a 50 and 85 don't handle as well.
 

William Lewis

Veteran
Location
Hayward WI
Real Name
William Lewis
My first camera was an AE-1P with the classic Canon 50/1.8 SC lens and I've been a 50 (aka Normal depending on format) shooter by preference since. 28 ~ 35 slightly wide is good and I like to have it (last lens I "need" for my D7100 is a 24/2.8 to give me that 35 fov since there are times when the 20/2.8 is too wide for my tastes even on the DX format).
 
I am a 50mm photographer, I struggle with 35mm. Every time I think I'm finally ready for my 35mm lens, I find that I'm still struggling with it because I really don't like my 35mm photos. I WANT to like it but I can't seem to get a hang of it.

The weird thing is - I've come to really, really like the Widelux look AND also quite like my 16mm fisheye. So it's either 50mm or stupid wide. There is no middle ground for me. I don't understand it.
 

agentlossing

All-Pro
Location
S. Oregon Coast (the Northernmost-Cal of them All)
Real Name
Andrew Lossing
I am a 50mm photographer, I struggle with 35mm. Every time I think I'm finally ready for my 35mm lens, I find that I'm still struggling with it because I really don't like my 35mm photos. I WANT to like it but I can't seem to get a hang of it.

The weird thing is - I've come to really, really like the Widelux look AND also quite like my 16mm fisheye. So it's either 50mm or stupid wide. There is no middle ground for me. I don't understand it.
Tried a 40mm? I find it has the clean and symmetrical look of a fifty while offering a roomier frame.
 

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